Spiva Membership Show

Admit it.

 

You do it.

 

I do it.

 

At one point every single one of us is guilty of plugging into mass-produced cultural entertainment of – let’s face it – marginal quality in our recreational time.

 

Why?

 

Because it’s easy. It requires very little effort on our part. Just log in to Netflix and zone away.

 

While doing so has its place in the hierarchy of destressing modes, we often forget that there are other ways in which we can unwind while simultaneously enriching our lives.

 

But that takes planning, and travel time, and money, you say. (Geez, you sound like my children!)

 

If your mission is to travel to Kansas City, or Tulsa, or northwest Arkansas to visit the revered cultural institutions there, then, yes, it will take some effort and planning.

 

But I’m here to tell you that there is another way. You can forgo that hassle and refill your cultural well right here in Joplin with very little planning or travel time.

 

And you can do it for free.

 

spiva membership dream

Perchance to Dream by Paula Giltner

 

On a recent Saturday, I announced to my brood that we would be going to the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts that afternoon to view the annual membership show. My declaration was met with belabored groans and steely glares that silently cursed me.

 

Who did I think I was trying to enrich their lives?

 

Afternoon came, and after thirty minutes of gently reminding my family that we would soon be leaving and barely receiving a grunt in response, I began turning off and unplugging various devices. You can guess how well that went over.

 

We finally piled into the minivan, along with a variety of Oscar-caliber whining and complaining. During the ten-minute drive to Spiva, I tuned out the back-seat grumbling and focused on my breathing, silently repeating this mantra: I will expose them to culture. I will expose them to culture. I will expose them to culture.

 

And they’ll like it, by golly. That’s the censored version of my thought, anyway.

 

Once inside the exhibit at Spiva, it only took a few minutes before I noticed a change in my kids. At times, they were actually getting lost in their thoughts while studying the artwork, and at other times they were enjoying the playful side of artistic expression.

 

 

spiva membership geese

My littlest chick posing by Ruth Millers Under the Feather

 

This exhibit was the Spiva Membership Show, which takes place at the end of every year. Admission to the exhibit is free, although donations are always welcome.

 

This annual exhibit showcases the work of around 100 area artists; we have some incredibly talented artists in the Joplin area, I might add.

 

The Membership Show was juried, and there were cash prizes totaling $2,400 awarded in the adult category, and prizes totaling $600 in the youth category.

 

spiva membership sunflowerShy Sunflower by Darla Hare

 

There were ceramics, watercolors, oil paintings, photographs, sculptures, and mixed media pieces.

 

 

spiva membership flightThe Dream of Flight by Jeffrey Jones

 

Not only was I excited to surround myself and my family with high-quality art, I was surprised to discover that I had met at least half of the artists whose works were on exhibit. I don’t say that to give you the impression that I frequent art galleries all the time, dahling. Actually, most of my time is spent running kids to their various activities, so on the rare occasion that I meet a local artist whose talent blows me away, it makes quite an impression on me.

 

It just so happens that there are some big players making their rounds in the arts community here in the Ozarks, and they’ve got my attention.

 

spiva membership wisemanPrincess and the Pea by Natalie Wiseman

 

An added bonus of the Membership Show is that many of the pieces were for sale; the pieces that I liked the most ranged in price from $100 to $3,200.

 

Dear Family: Read this post carefully for gift ideas for Christmas and/or my birthday, and/or just because you love me for exposing you to real-life culture. In addition to the pieces in the exhibit, there’s also some incredible jewelry in Spiva’s gift gallery that caught my eye. Oh, and a gift certificate to a Spiva art class would make a nice present, too – remember that funglass tray I made at a class there?

 

spiva membership doerrBirth of a Black Hole by Steve Doerr

 

When we were finished exploring the exhibit, I asked my family which pieces were their favorites. Here were their responses:

 

spiva membership danteTeenager’s favorite: Dave’s Pain by Kevin Myers. Is she trying to tell me something?

 

spiva membership eclipseMiddle child’s favorite: Eclipse by Josie Mai

 

spiva membership birdYoungest child’s favorite was Refugio: Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, by Brenda Sageng

 

spiva membership dogHusband’s favorite: Mama’s Little Angel by Robyn Cook

 

spiva membership ameliaMy favorite: St. Amelia – Patron Saint of Amassment and Collection by Michele DeSutter

 

As we were leaving Spiva’s parking lot, I asked my family, “Who had a good time?”

 

Every single one of those former complainers immediately answered, “I did!”

 

Ha!

 

Take that, Netflix. You don’t own us. We have the power to break free from our electronic trances and expose ourselves to real-life culture.

 

And we can fill up our cultural well right here in Joplin.

 

spiva membership circusLife is a Circus by Debbie Reed

 

 

Spiva is located at 222 West Third Street in Joplin.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre

“The GPS is telling me to turn here,” said my husband Travis. “Is this it?”

 

I’d been so busy selecting songs on my phone to play on the drive from Joplin to Carthage that I’d neglected my duties as navigator. Thank goodness Google Maps had been paying attention.

 

I glanced up to see a light brown building on top of a hill, nestled among several pine trees. A sign by the street read “Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre.”

 

stones throw sign

“This is it,” I said.

 

We had tickets for the Saturday evening performance of Mind Over Matt, a play by Scott Haan. The doors opened at 6:00 p.m., with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the performance at 7:30 p.m. Travis and I arrived shortly before dinner and, honestly, I was wondering how we would pass an entire hour before the play started. After all, we didn’t know anyone there.

 

Getting Seated

We handed our tickets to the usher who led us to our table. We were seated with six other people; half of them had been coming there for years, and the other half were newbies, just like us. I thought it might be awkward being seated at a table of strangers, but conversation came easily – and even lead to a serendipitous moment.

 

stones throw tables

About ten minutes after we were seated, a man sat down between Travis and the “regular” couple, whom he was meeting there. He looked familiar to me, and I mentally tried to place him. When that didn’t work (thanks a lot, memory), I started asking him questions to figure out where our paths might have crossed.

 

It finally dawned on me that I’d seen him at Joplin’s Stained Glass Theatre. His name is Karl Wendt, and he and his wife Shannon had performed songs at a children’s theater production (which they also directed) that we’d taken our daughter to see. When I told Karl I’d written a blog post about our experience at that performance, he said he knew that because he had just been reading that very post earlier that day. How cool is that?

 

Serendipitous.

 

Shortly after that aha! moment, a server came by with our first course, and Karl introduced us to her; she was his wife Shannon who was volunteering as a server at Stone’s Throw that evening. Up until that point, I wasn’t aware that the theater is a not-for-profit organization run completely by volunteers. As I observed the volunteers that night, I could tell that they were passionate about their cause by the way they attentively and enthusiastically served the guests; they genuinely wanted everyone to have a great time.

 

 

Dinner

Dinner service began with a Caesar salad, topped with fresh Parmesan cheese.

 

stones throw salad

The home-style entree was Salisbury Steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, whiskey glazed carrots, and a flaky dinner roll. It was simple and delicious.

 

stones throw salisbury steak

If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, you can let them know when you make your reservations and they will accommodate your needs.

 

Wine and beer tokens are available at the box office for those who are interested, and guests can purchase up to two tokens each.

 

 

The Performance

Before I knew it, the dinner hour was over and the play began. Even though our table was near the back, we could still see and hear everything, thanks to the intimate size of the theater.

 

The production’s engaging cast consisted of local actors who put their all into their roles and played them with an energy equal to that of the theater’s volunteers.

 

stones throw stage

The actors in Mind Over Matt portrayed different aspects of the main character Matt’s personality, kind of like the animated movie Inside Out. It was witty and quick-paced.

 

At intermission, dessert was served: warm peach cobbler bathed in cinnamon ice cream. It was dreamy.

 

stones throw peach cobbler

It was a great night; give me good food and quality entertainment and I’m one happy lady.

 

Considering that the theater charges just $26 per adult* for a fun and unique Saturday night, I think that Stone’s Throw is a hidden gem in our area.

 

But, thankfully, my GPS can find it.

 

 

Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre is located at 2466 West Old 66 Boulevard in Carthage. Click here to visit its website, and here to see its Facebook page.

*Stone’s Throw pricing as of 10/17:  Adults (19-54) $26.00; Seniors (55 and up) $23.00; Student (w/ID)  $22.00; Youth (13-18) $21.00;  Children (6-12) $12.00; Children (under 5) free.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Jorge Leyva: Joplin’s World-Class Artist

It’s a unique sight to see in Joplin: the expansive green lawn in front of Jorge Leyva’s home dotted with a handful of large metal sculptures. Some of them are brightly colored, while others stand gray and raw, awaiting the time when they, too, will be painted into life.

 

leyva red sculpture

Like flowers in a garden, these exquisite sculptures bloom in their own time, in their own way. “I believe in beauty and in beautifying the place where I exist,” says Jorge.

 

And he doesn’t want to keep this beauty to himself. He wants others to see, feel, and experience the art themselves, which is why he’s opened his sculpture garden to the public – for free.

 

leyva blue sculpture

There aren’t many parks or other public spaces in town where people can go to see artistic pieces like fountains and sculptures. But that is beginning to change, and Jorge is playing a big part of the public art movement in Joplin.

 

His mission is to educate his town about “the importance of having something visual where people can participate and feel alive.” He recently dedicated a piece that he created for the Joplin Public Library called “Revering the Phoenix Effect,” which represents how Joplin rose from the dust after the tornado.

 

leyva library

At its dedication ceremony, Jorge watched as a little girl walked up to the sculpture and began playing with one of the houses on it like it was a Lego. “She was encountering herself with art,” says Jorge, and that’s the kind of experience that he hopes everyone who comes across his art will have.

 

A wise – and extremely humble – man, Jorge has worked as an artist for 25 years. Originally from Peru, he came to Missouri to study engineering, but a close friend helped him see that his true talent was expressing himself through art. He graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a BA, from Pittsburg State University with an MA, and then from California College of the Arts with an MFA.

 

He’s artwork has been sold worldwide, and his sculptures are carried by Nuart Gallery in Santa Fe. His work is valuable, but not necessarily affordable. For his private clients, he creates “luxury,” but for those of us living in Joplin, he creates accessibility. We get the chance to see his work at Joplin Public Library, Spiva Center for the Arts, as well as at Jorge’s own home.

 

Spiva-sculpture

Sculpture at Spiva Center for the Arts

 
It’s refreshing to see that an artist of Jorge’s caliber genuinely cares about his hometown and strives to contribute to his community in many ways. Not only does he share his artwork in public spaces, but he also collaborates with local people in finishing his metal sculptures, like by using a local sandblaster/painter who adds the vibrant color to his creations.

 

Visiting Jorge’s sculpture garden is a fulfilling experience, made even more so if you have the chance to interact with the artist himself. Talking to Jorge is like salve for the soul: he’s funny and comforting; charming and insightful. In order to visit, you’ll need to call ahead (417-623-8085): the gates are closed at night and on the weekends unless he’s at home working.

 

While you’re there, ask to see his indoor studio. While I was there, he was working on paintings with “cocoon clouds,” clouds filled with depth that represent metamorphosis.

 

leyva cloud coccoons

Who knew that so much could be represented in clouds?

 

Jorge did.

 

While his work has changed over time, one theme that has remained constant, in both his work and his life, is gratitude – gratitude for his creativity, for the people who interact with his work, and for the people who support it. “Joplin has embraced me beautifully. Nothing is equal to having my own town and its people embrace me so well.”

 

leyva scales of nature

“Weighing in on the Scales of Nature” represents the rebuilding of Joplin after the tornado. “People in Joplin are resilient,” says Jorge. “They are about home.”

 

To visit Jorge Leyva’s sculpture garden at 1305 East Vandalia Street, call 417-623-8085. Click here to see Jorge’s website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

The Top 5 Picnic Spots in Joplin

My husband Travis and I have a tradition where we plan a weekday picnic lunch date once our kids are back in school, then again in early May before the kids get out for summer break. It’s our way to relax, reconnect, and secretly gloat that we get recess while our kids are busy learning.

 

There are some perks to being a grown-up.

 

picnic mcindoe bench

Our favorite spot.

 

Last week, we finally had the chance to have our back-to-school picnic, and while we were resting on our blanket looking up at the blue September sky at our favorite picnic spot, I began to wonder where else in Joplin other magical picnic spots might exist – ones where we might even bring the children to on a nice weekend day.

 

So, I hopped in my car to do some field research. For a picnic spot to be ideal, it had to be naturally shaded – in other words, not in a shelter or pavilion. If I’m going to be eating outside, I want to be able to see the sky above me. (If you’re a pavilion-seeking picnic person, don’t worry; I’ve included some options for you, too.)

 

I found five outstanding picnic spots, which I’ve detailed below. At the end of each description, I’ve listed a summary of amenities, including nearby restaurants where you can pick up food for your picnic instead of having to make it yourself.

 

THE TOP 5 PICNIC SPOTS IN JOPLIN

 

  1. McIndoe Park (Glendale Road and Jackson Avenue)

When I told my friend where Travis and I had our back-to-school picnic, she said, “McIndoe Park? Never heard of it.” Not many people know the name of this park, which is perched on the banks of sparkling Shoal Creek. Most people assume that this park is an extension of Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center just to the south, but it’s a Joplin city park.

 

Travis and I found a spot just to the south of the historic one-lane low-water bridge, built in 1919. Driving over this bridge is a mind-bending experience; since you can’t see the pavement next to you, it feels like you’re gliding across the creek in a boat.

 

picnic mcindoe creek

McIndoe Park is our favorite Joplin picnic spot because here we can eat at a shaded picnic table while enjoying a creekside view, then rest on a blanket in the nearby grass.

 

picnic mcindoe t

So sorry the kids couldn’t be here. Hee, hee.

Sometimes we play cards, and sometimes we watch the wildlife. Last week, we saw a stealthy blue heron perched on a log across the creek, scanning the water for his lunch, as well as several vibrant bluebirds singing their cheerful songs.

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: No

Playground: No

Restrooms: No

Nearby restaurants: Eagle Drive-In (1.5 miles)

 

 

  1. McClelland Park (4568 McClelland Park Road)

This large, wooded park is located on a hilltop on Joplin’s southwest side. There are parking lots near the entrance, which is where I found this cute green picnic table. It’s located right next to the playground, making it a great spot for a family picnic.

 

picnic mcclelland park

If you’re seeking solitude and tranquility away from the busy playground and shelter area, follow McClelland Park Road along the eastern edge of the park.

 

picnic mcclelland course

Here you’ll find several pull-off areas leading to secluded picnic tables surrounded by trees on one side and the 18-hole disc golf course on the other.

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: 2

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: Yes

Nearby restaurants: Sakura Sushi & Grill Japanese Restaurant, Del Rio Grill & Cantina, Subway (all 1.5 miles)

 

 

  1. Leonard Park (4th Street and Turk Avenue)

This is my go-to park if I’m shopping on North Range Line Road and need a quick nature fix. Located just west of North Point Shopping Center (the one with Toys ‘R’ Us), Leonard Park was one of my favorite parks to take my kids when they were little. In addition to a playground, there’s a little creek that runs through the park, making it a magical place for kids to explore.

 

While there are a few picnic tables outside of the pavilion here, none are shaded, so my favorite place to picnic here is on the grass right next to the creek.

 

picnic leonard

Looks like a scene from a fairy tale, doesn’t it?

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: 1

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: Yes

Nearby restaurants: A variety of fast-food options on Range Line Road, plus Habaneros Mexican Grill and Lalo’s Taqueria (both .4 miles).

 

 

  1. Cunningham Park (26th Street and Maiden Lane)

Our family has known this park through its two incarnations: as a shaded park where my little ones pointed excitedly when they spied the medical helicopter taking off from the hospital across the street (pre-tornado), and as a spacious, open park with areas for quiet reflection (post-tornado).

 

Cunningham Park’s landscape may have changed since May 22, 2001, but its popularity hasn’t. It’s beautiful in a new way now, and the colorful blooming plants and tranquil water features in the Butterfly Garden exemplify this.

 

picnic cunningham pagoda

That’s the bench under a pergola in the background.

While there are picnic tables in other areas of Cunningham Park, there aren’t any in the garden. However, there are a couple of benches (one is partially shaded by a pergola) that are situated on either side of the “Hope” water feature which traces the path of the Joplin tornado. Either one provides a peaceful for enjoying a meal.

 

picnic cunningham angled bench

Natural shade: No (but the tranquility of the Butterfly Garden makes it worth visiting)

Pavilions: 3

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: Yes

Nearby restaurants: A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is just across the street from the park (on the west side) if you want to pick up a deli meal; Tropicana Bar & Grill, and El Vaquero (both 1 mile).

 

 

  1. Bluff Trail (see below for the slightly complicated directions, but I promise it’s totally worth visiting)

To enjoy a picnic with the best view in Joplin, be prepared to take a short hike through the woods (by short, I mean all of two minutes; the trail is somewhat rocky and steep so don’t wear stilettos).

 

There are two picnic tables just off Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center’s Bluff Trail (see map here), which runs along the bluff above the west side of Shoal Creek and offers breathtaking views. While hiking up from creek level is an option (a strenuous one), so is parking your car on Castle Drive and walking down to the tables (much easier).

 

However, the easier option is also the trickier one, as the trail from Castle Drive to the tables is not marked. In fact, after looking around for 15 minutes by myself, I had Travis come help me (he found it right away, of course, which was a bit infuriating). So, we decided to drive from each direction and record the distance, so that we (okay, I) could find it easily next time.

 

Here’s what we found. If you’re coming from Main Street (Highway 86), turn west on Castle Drive and follow it for one mile. If you’re coming from McIndoe Park, take the low-water bridge across to the south side of Shoal Creek and turn east on Murphy Boulevard (which becomes Castle Drive) and drive for .7 miles.

 

At this point you will be on top of a hill and there will be gravel parking areas on either side of the road. Park here and walk on the east side of the road (just south of the gravel parking area – confused yet?) and you will see this trail head.

 

picnic bluff trail entrance

This will take you to the closest picnic table (the other one is farther south), and to this amazing view.

 

picnic bluff trail

See that dark thing in the sky? That’s actually a leaf falling from a tree on the first day of autumn. So poetic.

Please, please, please do me a favor and bring a bag for trash, as there are no trash cans nearby and you’ll need to carry it out with you. This is probably also a good time to mention using the restroom before your picnic, too.

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: No

Playground: No

Restrooms: No

Nearby restaurants: All Aboard Ice Cream (and burgers!) (1 mile).

 

 

Honorable Mention: Garvin Park (28th Street & Virginia Avenue)

This tiny park may not offer any natural shade, but its location is fundamental to its appeal. It’s situated right next to McDonald’s, causing me to often wonder why people would eat inside the restaurant (or even in their cars, for that matter) when this pretty outdoor space is literally just a few feet away.

 

picnic garvin 1 (1)

The building in the background on the right (behind the lion) is McDonald’s.

 

Having a picnic at this park offers a double win: kids can eat their Happy Meals and then run around the playground, giving parents a good 30-60 minutes of quiet time.

 

picnic garvin 2

Bonus: The lion water fountain. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Joplin. I guess it doesn’t take much to impress me.

 

Natural shade: No, but letting mommy have some quiet time is worth the sacrifice.

Pavilions: 2

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: No, but use the restrooms in McDonald’s when you’re buying the Happy Meals.

Nearby restaurants: Obviously, you’re aware that McDonald’s is literally a few steps away; Tropicana Bar & Grill, and El Vaquero (both .3 miles).

 

So, now that you know where the best picnic spots are in Joplin, grab your lunch and head outdoors.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Guilty by Association Truck Show

Why are people making such a big deal about a truck show?

 

This thought ran through my mind as stood in line at the Walmart Supercenter, listening to the people in front of me talking to the cashier about their plans to attend the Guilty by Association Truck Show (GBATS). Sure, I’d seen and heard advertisements for this event around town, but I hadn’t given it much thought – until I kept crossing paths with people talking about it, and the buzz became so deafening that I knew I had to check it out for myself.

 

It turns out that this truck show is a really, really big deal.

 

guilty-eagle

One of the world’s longest truck convoys is part of the GBATS two-day event. Each year, this convoy (bobtails only) begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening at 4 State Trucks, located on Highway 43 just off of I-44 near the Joplin 44 Petro. It then travels north to downtown Joplin, where approximately 400 drivers will park their trucks, turn on their lights, and enjoy an evening of camaraderie with their fellow drivers at a party on Main Street.

 

guilty-lopez-night

Some advice to anyone trying to drive across town on the night of the convoy: get to where you need to go before the convoy begins. Better yet, pack a folding chair and watch the convoy yourself. That’s what we did.

 

guilty-ellsworth-service-center

It’s incredible how quickly the number of trucks participating in the convoy has grown over the years. In 2010, the first year of the event, there were 17 trucks; in 2015, there were more than 370!

 

Why do drivers participate in this convoy? The main reason is because the money raised from it goes to Special Olympics Missouri’s program for sports training program and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In recent years, the convoy has raised over $70,000 for this cause.

 

Plus, 40 drivers have the privilege of having a Special Olympian riding along with them in the convoy.

 

guilty-pink-cancer

Participating in the convoy is also a fun way for drivers to proudly show off their working trucks, their homes on the road. And some of these homes are pretty fancy.

 

guilty-arthurs-legacy-day

guilty-military-night2

The convoy we saw arrived in downtown Joplin just as the sun set behind the century-old brick buildings. Drivers turned on their truck lights and Main Street transformed into an enchanted parking lot.

 

guilty-main-street-night

Seeing these trucks reminded me of looking at houses around the holidays; during the day they appeared appropriately festive, but at night, they looked completely different, magical.

 

guilty-ripped-dayDay

guilty-ripped-nightNight

 

The parked trucks provided an impressive backdrop for the street party, which was a family-friendly event. There were food vendors and musical performances from bands like South of Vertical and Tony Justice.

 

guilty-semi-near-mural

 

This was just the downtown portion of the GBATS. There were a variety of activities going on in south Joplin at 4 State Trucks all day Friday and Saturday (prior to the convoy) including an open house, a swap meet, big rig burnouts, a motorcycle stunt rider show, and semi truck and trailer pulls.

 

Keeping with the family-friendly theme, there were also food vendors and children’s activities, plus a fireworks display to end the Friday night festivities.

 

There’s a lot to see and do during the GBATS two-day event. I now understand why I heard so many people talking about it.

 

Iis a big deal.

 

 

For more information on GBATS, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Infuxn Vodka Bar

Infuxn.

 

Let’s start with the pronunciation of this odd little word, specifically the latter half.

 

It does not rhyme with suction; it rhymes with fusion.

 

Now, put it all together and say in-fusion.

 

Not only is that what the name sounds like, it also describes what goes on at Joplin’s ultra hip vodka bar called Infuxn.

 

infuxn lounge

 

This upscale lounge with its sleek decor, VIP seating, frozen drink rail at the bar, and vodka bank in the rear makes me feel like I’ve have been transported from southwest Missouri directly to a club in Vegas.

 

infuxn bank 2

The vodka bank. Care to make a withdrawal?

 

In addition to its unique atmosphere, Infuxn sets itself apart from other local bars by focusing on the art of the cocktail. Many of the drinks here are actual infusions, which are defined in the dictionary as “drinks, remedies, or extracts prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid.”

 

Yes, Infuxn has a remedy for whatever ails you.

 

The medicine man here is Daniel Valentine, the creative force behind Infuxn’s cocktail elixirs. He has crafted a menu of drinks that is anything but ordinary. Daniel even takes his art beyond the menu by concocting a daily drink special, plus he makes customized drinks based on his patrons’ requests.

 

The novel atmosphere and chill vibe of Infuxn make it a great place for a date or to meet up with friend. Recently, my friend Carrie and I stopped here and relaxed while we sampled a few of Daniel’s masterpieces.

 

I’ll admit, I’d assumed that all of the drinks would be vodka-based, since Infuxn is a vodka bar. While many of them are, I later realized that the two drinks I’d ordered had not a drop of vodka in them.

 

This is the French Connection.

 

infuxn french

 

Beautiful, isn’t it?

 

But it’s not what I ordered, and that was my own fault. When our server placed this pretty brandy snifter on the table, I realized that it looked nothing like the icy Last Summer that I’d intended to order. Glancing back at the menu, I saw that the French Connection was listed below the Last Summer, and I must have been so intrigued with it that the words “French Connection” came out of my mouth when my brain meant to say “Last Summer.”

 

Oops.

 

But instead of sending the drink back, I opted to try it. After all, Infuxn is the place to sample innovative concoctions that you can’t find anywhere else.

 

The French Connection is made with a variety of ingredients, many of which I looked up before writing this article because I wasn’t exactly sure what they were, like Bulleit Rye (Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey) and Green Chartreuse (a naturally green liquor made from alcohol, sugar, and 130 plants and flowers). Add in some orange bitters, house maple syrup, serve it over a muddled sugar cube, and garnish it with an orange peel and fresh rosemary, and you’ve got your French Connection.

 

Fragrant and subtly sweet – yet potent – this is definitely a sipping drink. I would even order it again – on purpose.

 

Carrie started out with the tropical Lusca, which is Infuxn’s version of a Mai Tai.

 

infuxn lusca

 

The Lusca is made with Pyrat rum, The Kraken black spiced rum, Cointreau, and fresh lime, pineapple, and orange juices. Lime syrup and orgeat (I had to look this up, too: a syrup made from almonds, sugar, and rose water or orange flower water) are added, then the mixture is shaken, strained, and served over ice.

 

 

It won’t come as a surprise that the next drink I ordered was the Last Summer.

 

infuxn last summer

 

Made with Hendrick’s gin, lavender-ginger syrup, and fresh lemon juice, this elixir is served over ice and topped with a Luxardo cherry. This refreshing drink goes down easily, so pace yourself – especially on a hot day. And do yourself a favor and eat that decadent (and expensive) Luxardo cherry on top; fruity with a hint of amaretto, Luxardo cherries are the luxe cousins of the familiar Maraschino cherries.

 

 

Carrie ordered the popular Moscow Mule next.

 

infuxn mule 1

 

This shiny, chilled copper mug contained Russian Standard vodka, ginger beer, freshly squeezed lime juice, and a special ingredient (ooh, mystery!) and was topped with a slice of lime and a slice of cucumber. This invigorating drink is a guaranteed thirst-quencher on a sultry day.

 

Halfway through my second drink, my stomach piped up and asked me to fill it with something more substantial than liquid. I’ve learned by now not to argue with my stomach, so I asked for a food menu, which contained a variety of small-plate options.

 

I ordered the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, which provided a creamy, salty contrast to my mildly sweet drink.

 

infuxn crab

 

Carrie, a vegan, ordered the hummus.

 

infuxn hummus

 

The hummus flavor that day was garlic, and it was served with fresh celery, carrots, and fried naan (which is lightly seasoned and highly addictive).

 

I’m excited that Infuxn is part of Joplin; it offers a one-of-a-kind experience in our city, making it a must-visit place for both tourists and locals.

 

Just make sure you practice saying the name before you go.

 

 

 

Infuxn is located at 503 S. Main St. Click here to visit Infuxn’s website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

All Aboard Ice Cream

There are restaurants you stop at to fill your belly, and then there are restaurants you visit to fill the pages in your family’s book of memories.

 

All Aboard Ice Cream is one of those memory-making restaurant destinations.

 

Location

All Aboard Ice Cream is located on Highway 86, just south of Joplin. It’s right across the street from Shoal Creek and some of Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center‘s scenic hiking trails. Take advantage of this great location by enjoying a nature walk before or after your visit to All Aboard.

 

 

The Appeal

The Kansas City Southern postal car that sits in the front of the property attracts curious visitors to All Aboard, but the old-fashioned ice cream and hamburgers are the gustatory draws (more about those later).

 

all aboard rr car

 

When my daughter and I visited All Aboard, the first thing she did was run to the rail car to begin exploring.

 

This was once a postal car, and I found it interesting looking at the names of the towns listed on the mail slots in the center of the car.

 

all aboard mail

 

Back in the day, it might take days or weeks for messages to be delivered. Explaining this process to email-savvy young ones makes for a unique history lesson.

 

all aboard car interior

 

You can also eat inside the air-conditioned rail car at one of the dining booths.

 

By the way, All Aboard offers birthday party packages in the rail car. Talk about a one-of-a-kind location!

 
 

Whisler’s

After exploring the rail car, we headed over to the train depot to order our food.

 

 

all aboard depot

 

The counter is divided between All Aboard’s dessert orders on the left and Whisler’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers on the right.

 

Burgers? Wasn’t this supposed to be about ice cream?

 

I promise I’ll get to the ice cream, but first let me tell you about Whisler’s.

 

Lunch before dessert, you know.

 

People who grew up in southwest Missouri have heard of the original Whisler’s in Carthage that has been perfecting its hamburgers since the 1950s.

 

all aboard grill

 

Well, I didn’t grow up around here so I’d never heard about Whisler’s until it opened at the All Aboard location.

 

Whisler’s is the type of all-American restaurant that you envision when you think of the wholesome 1950s, when burgers and ice cream were regarded with much more reverence than those served in today’s fast-food chain restaurants.

 

That’s because everything was made from scratch back then – and with quality ingredients.

 

Whisler’s old-time burgers are made to order on a busy, sizzling grill in the open kitchen. If you come at peak lunch time, be patient. There’s only so much room on the grill, so strike up a conversation with your neighbor in line while you wait for your juicy beauties to be ready.

 

all aboard burger

 

I ordered a single cheeseburger, which is slightly larger than a slider. Made with fresh, local beef, this burger was dressed with mustard, onions, pickles, and cheese, and topped off with a fluffy bun.

 

If you’re craving more meat, you can order double and triple burgers, or you can choose burgers topped with other types of meat, such as the “Pig and Bull” (with ham), “Sow and Cow” (with bacon), and the “Farm” (with ham and bacon).

 

My daughter doesn’t like burgers (what?!), so she ordered a hot dog.

 

all aboard picnic 2

 

She was obviously happy with her choice.

 

 

Finally, the Ice Cream!

A good old-fashioned slider meal begs to be topped off with a rich, creamy treat. All Aboard makes it easy to satisfy that craving by presenting a variety of ice cream flavors at the counter adjacent to Whisler’s.

 

all-aboard-ice-cream small

 

I confess that I’ve eaten All Aboard Ice Cream countless times in the past — but it was known as Anderson’s Ice Cream back then.

 

Let me explain.

 

Anderson’s Ice Cream satisfied the collective sweet tooth of the Joplin community for many years. Carl and Freda Anderson founded the original ice cream company in 1936 in downtown Joplin, and it was operated by family members until 1999.

 

In 2012, Billy Garrigan answered the prayers of many Joplinites and opened up Anderson’s Ice Cream inside the Candy House Gourmet Chocolates building.

 

Treating my kids to Anderson’s Ice Cream to kick off the first day of summer vacation became our family tradition.

 

When Garrigan moved his business in 2015, he also changed its name to All Aboard because a company in the Northeast had trademarked the name Anderson’s. While it would’ve been nice to carry on the Anderson’s name, I think All Aboard suits this train-themed business perfectly.

 

Drew Evans is the owner of All Aboard now, making premium ice cream in the Anderson’s tradition (its richness comes from 14% butterfat). I tried a scoop of caramelly Creme Brûlée (which is hard to see in the photo because it was such an incredibly bright day), and it was creamy perfection.

 

all aboard dessert

 

Family Friendly

When Garrigan opened All Aboard, his goal was to make the business and location as family friendly as possible. He scored well with the high-quality (yet affordable) burgers and ice cream.

 

The train theme puts him over the top.

 

In addition to the rail car, there’s other railroad memorabilia to discover. My daughter had fun standing by the crossing sign (which looks like she’s standing just a few feet from an active track)…

 

all aboard rr crossing

 

…and ringing the bell in front of the train depot.

 

all aboard bell

 

Older kids can play in the picnic area out front, and young children can toddle around safely in the enclosed patio area where their parents can sit down and eat in peace. There’s also a sandbox and a mini train; tickets can be purchased for a ride around the picnic area.

 

all aboard mini train

 

All Aboard has gone to great lengths to create a destination where families can enjoy wholesome food and family fun.

 

And where lasting memories are made.

 

 

All Aboard is located at 102 Castle Drive. Visit its Facebook page here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Grand Falls

Grand Falls is a must-see for anyone visiting – or living in – Joplin.

 

This natural formation is beautiful, so be sure to bring your camera. Bring your family, too, because Grand Falls makes an outstanding background in photos.

 

But Grand Falls isn’t just a pretty place to visit.

 

It’s also the largest continuously running waterfall in Missouri.

 

falls autumn

That’s, right! The water in Shoal Creek plunges 12 feet to a rock ledge.

 

What? Only 12 feet? Clearly you won’t need to crane your neck to see the top of the falls, but you are guaranteed a chance to see it flowing every time you visit because, well, that’s how a continuously flowing waterfall works.

 

Above the falls there’s a man-made dam. This was installed to form a reservoir that supplies water to Joplin residents.

 

The natural falls are created by a ledge of solid chert rock that measures 163 feet across, creating a Little Niagra Falls right here in our backyard.

 

There are outcroppings of chert next to the falls that fill with water and create pools that kids of all ages can splash in,

 

falls pool splash

and explore to discover frogs and other types of life in the water.

 

falls kids on chert

Grand Falls is accessible from Riverside Drive, and there’s a small gravel lot where you can park your car. You can admire the falls from there, or you can walk the path from the parking lot down to the creek.

 

As you can see from all of the rock in the photos, the terrain is uneven, so be sure to wear appropriate shoes. If you plan on playing in the water (especially in the pools of water in between the rocks), I’d recommend a pair of rubber aqua socks because the rocks can be slippery.

 

Falls kids on rocks

Or maybe you just want to find a dry rock to sit on so you can rest while listening to the peaceful flowing water. Visit the falls at sunrise and treat yourself to the sight of early morning mist drifting off the creek while you sip some coffee.

 

falls mist

Ahh.

 

After visiting the falls (which is on the east side of the creek) our family usually stops at Inspiration Point and McClelland Park (which are both on the bluff on the west side of the creek).

 

Inspiration Point is located near the intersection of Glendale Road and McClelland Park Boulevard. There’s a gravel overlook area where you can pull over and enjoy a breathtaking view of Shoal Creek.

 

falls inspiration

Next to Inspiration Point is McClelland Park. This park is situated on top of a hill, making it a prime spot for kite-flying in the spring. There are several areas with playground equipment, plus a disc golf course that’s located in the south part of the park.

 

The many mature trees at McClelland make it a perfect place for a picnic, and there are several tables located throughout the park.

 

Here’s a table near the bluff that overlooks Grand Falls to the east. We visited the park on that spectacular fall day take photos to use in our holiday card.

 

falls picnic

 No, we didn’t use this for our holiday photo and, no, she did not push her sister off the table (surprisingly).

 

So take a few minutes out of your day to stop at picturesque Grand Falls, where you can enjoy the unique natural surroundings and recharge your batteries.

 

If you have more time, swing by Inspiration Point, then have a picnic under the trees at McClelland Park.

 

 


Grand Falls is located at 5400 Riverside Drive, and McClelland Park is located at Maiden Lane and Shoal Creek (click here for its website and map).

 

Directions to Grand Falls: Off I-44, exit 6; south on Route 86 (Hearnes Blvd./South Main Street) two blocks; at the roundabout go west (right) on Glendale Road 1.5 miles; south (left) on Jackson across the low-water bridge; west (right) on Riverside Drive two miles; and Grand Falls is on the right.

 

Photos by Travis Smith; family photo by Lloyd Smith.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Brunch at Club 1201

There’s something decadent about brunching. For one thing, going out for brunch implies that you possess ample time to linger over a morning meal, which is quite the opposite of how I typically find myself each morning, reaching for grab-and-go foods as I scoot the kids out the door to one activity or another – even on the weekends.

 

Sigh. I remember those weekends before having kids when I could sleep in, back when time was a luxury.

 

Brunching is special because it typically happens at locations with elegant decor and neatly-pressed linens covering the tables. It’s as though these places understand that if you possess leisure time in the morning, then you deserve to celebrate that in beautiful surroundings, by golly.

 

Finally, brunching involves eating dishes that are essentially fancied-up versions of regular breakfast fare. Take Eggs Benedict, for instance, which is basically a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast that’s been artfully arranged and topped with a sumptuous sauce.

 

Yes, brunching has been an elusive activity for me for the last decade or so, ever since parenting trumped leisuring as my primary focus on the weekends.

 

That is, until last weekend.

 

club 1201 brunch out2

Our kids spent Saturday night at Grandma’s house, leaving my husband Travis and I with – gasp! – no obligations on Sunday morning, so we decided to treat ourselves to brunch at Club 1201.

 

For years, I’d been hearing people talk about brunching here and telling me I just had to try it. Club 1201 serves brunch only on Sundays, lunch on weekdays, and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays (in the rear dining room of the building, in what’s called Uncorked @1201). Over the years, we’d eaten every other meal except brunch here, but this was about to change.

 

To commemorate this occasion, I even wore a dress. It just seemed like a brunchy thing to do.

 

club 1201 brunch c and t 2

The interior of Club 1201 is decorated with an eclectic collection of picture frames, doors, and other architectural features that are presented as pieces of art, which creates a uniquely sophisticated backdrop. Linda Williams, the owner of the restaurant, greeted us and showed us to our table, which was covered with crisp black linens.

 

So far, so fancy.

 

Linda asked us if we’d like to start off at the Bloody Mary Bar, which is somewhat of an institution at brunch here. While we aren’t Bloody Mary drinkers, we’d heard so many people rave about Club 1201’s bar that we had to at least check it out.

 

club 1201 brunch bmb1

Club 1201’s Bloody Mary bar is set up in the rear dining room (the one that houses Uncorked @ 1201 on weekend evenings), and you can customize your drink to your heart’s desire. Starting with a base of tomato juice or Zing Zang (if you like yours spicy), you can then add vodka (plain, bacon, or sriracha), and dress it up with an assortment of olives and bacon.

 

You can also celebrate your brunch with a sweet and bubbly mimosa, or with a nice caffeinated cup of coffee, juice, or water.

 

We started off our brunch date by ordering the beignets. I fell in love with beignets when I lived in New Orleans, where they’re served sprinkled with so much powdered sugar that it’s impossible to eat them neatly, and you end up looking like a ghost.

 

club 1201 brunch beignets1

Club 1201’s beignets arrived at the table with an elegant dusting of powdered sugar and a raspberry coulis for dipping. These little French doughnuts were warm and moist, with the coulis adding a light touch of sweetness.

 

But because I love to envelop myself in a cloud of powdered sugar when I eat beignets, I asked our server to bring an extra dish of it. You can take the girl out of New Orleans, but you can’t take the New Orleans out of the girl.

 

club 1201 brunch beignet dust

Our fancy table didn’t look so fancy afterwards, though.

 

I ordered the Eggs Benedict for my entree. At Club 1201, the poached eggs are stacked on top of smoky bacon and toasted baguette slices, then drizzled with a buttery Hollandaise sauce. You can choose either fruit or Parmesan potatoes as a side dish; I chose the potatoes, which were thin and crispy and sprinkled with a sweet and spicy seasoning that was thoroughly addictive.

 

club 1201 brunch eggs benedict

Travis ordered the Steak and Egg Flatbread for his entree. He prefers lunch foods over breakfast foods, so this flatbread option was ideal for him. The size of a small pizza, this dish was made with pieces of tenderloin and scrambled eggs topped with flavorful fresh rosemary.

 

club 1201 brunch steak

Other items on the brunch menu that looked interesting to me included the Monte Cristo Sliders, made with ham and cheese and served on cinnamon swirled toast, then dusted with powdered sugar (more powdered sugar!); and the Chicken and Waffles (something my daughter raves about but I have yet to try), which is served with maple syrup and peppered sausage gravy.

 

The chef’s frittata and crepe specials are not listed on the menu because they change each week, so your server will tell you about those. Club 1201 also offers a lunch menu during brunch time on Sundays. Having more options makes everyone happy.

 

As we left Club 1201 on that sunny morning, my husband turned to me and said, “That was really good. Why don’t we do that more often?”

 

I was about to launch into a speech about the million reasons why we don’t, when a gentle breeze playfully rustled my skirt, reminding me how fun it was to dress up and take the time to do something out of our normal routine, like brunching.

 

“Yes,” I agreed. “We should.”

 

 

Brunch is served on Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Club 1201 is located at 1201 E. 32nd Street. Click here to visit its website, and click here to view its Facebook page.

 

*The only photo in this post that I took was the one of the powdered sugar/beignet aftermath. Our server took the photo of me and my husband, and Travis (our family’s photographer) took the remaining photos.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Cunningham Park

Helicopter Park is what we used to call it, about a decade ago.

 

I’d bring my oldest two girls here to let them jump, slide, swing, and climb on the brightly-colored playground equipment under the shade of the many tall trees in this park.

 

If we were lucky – and we often were – we’d hear it: a distant whirring, growing closer and louder by the minute until we saw the source of the sound hovering above the treeline, pausing for a moment as if winking at us before it whisked itself away.

 

cunningham pre 1

Seeing this flying object was a highly anticipated event whenever we came here, and we’d all stop whatever we were doing just to watch it. This magical machine was the St. John’s medical helicopter which was housed at the hospital’s helipad right across the street from one of our favorite places in Joplin: Cunningham Park.

 

cunningham pre 2So many leaves on the ground from so many trees!

 

Unfortunately, what my girls and I knew as Helicopter Park was destroyed by the EF5 tornado that roared through Joplin on May 22, 2011. All of those beautiful shade trees were transformed into matchsticks, tossed with mangled playground equipment, then lumped into piles of debris.

 

But it didn’t take long for the people of our city, working alongside thousands of volunteers from all over the country and all over the world, to clean up the twisted bits of our former buildings and parks, and to create fresh spaces where we could form new memories. The result was a touching tribute, not only to the past, but to the ever-present power of the human spirit.

 

My kids and I weren’t the only ones who missed playing at Cunningham Park in the months after the tornado; lots of people were hard-pressed to find a space in Joplin where their kids could run and play with no worries.

 

Thanks to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, that all changed. The production, which built seven homes a few blocks from the park, also took on the task of building a play area and basketball court at Cunningham Park, introducing these features to the public in October 2011.

 

cunningham boomtown

This wooden play area is made to look like Joplin in its booming mining days. I like it because it feels like a miniature movie set from an old Western.

 

cunningham tall playground

For kids who crave more height and thrills, there’s a three-story modern plastic playground set that has been added on the north side of the park.

 

cunningham old playgroundThe former playground today.

 

cunningham post tornadoThe former playground after the tornado.

 
In the center of the park, in the space that once contained the playground equipment that my kids climbed on back in the Helicopter Park days, there’s now a serene koi pond on the north side and a pond with a waterfall on the south side, with a bridge separating the two.

 

cunningham koi

This is the reflecting pond, which honors the lives of the children lost in the tornado.

 

Walking southeast from this area is the green space where my kids would once excitedly run from me in an effort to get me to chase them. Most of this area is still open, but there are a few new fixtures that are honor the lives lost in the tornado.

 

cunningham plaqueThis plaque lists the names of the 161 citizens who perished on May 22.

 
cunningham fountain

Dedicated on November 22, 2011, the “Proclamation of Restoration” fountain is a replica of the original one which stood at Cunningham Park, the first city park in Joplin, and it reads: To the City of Joplin and the “Seasoning of Lives” lost during and from the aftermath of the May 22 tornado.

 

The north part of the park features a tribute to the volunteers who flocked to Joplin to help our city in those months after the storm. This is the Volunteer Tribute and Children’s Memorial, designed and built by architecture students from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.

 

cunningham steel band

This stainless steel band represents the “The Miracle of the Human Spirit” wristbands that many people wore during the recovery process.

 

The four circles of the tribute represent Rescue, Recovery, Demolition and Rebirth, and pieces of debris form mosaics in the walls of the circles.

 

cunnningham debris mosaic 1

In the center of the circles is a mosaic that reflects the stories about the “Butterfly People” that children told after the storm.

 

cunningham butterfly mosaic

To the north of this area, just past the boundaries of the original park, is the Butterfly Garden and Overlook. What I think is so cool about this area is the “penciled” outlines of the former homes that stood at that spot, especially the Carl Owen house, which was built in 1911 (click here to see what it looked like).

 

cunningham penciled

Sometimes while my kids were playing, I’d look at that house with its unusual row of windows on the upper floor, and I’d wonder what exactly the upstairs was used for. I’d like to think that it was a huge dance studio or a writing room that overlooked the park (how dreamy would that be?).

 

cunningham flowers wall outline

Today, you can walk through the skeleton of the house and learn facts about the tornado and the butterfly garden from the series of plaques that are placed inside of it.

 

cunningham strong fountain

There are several places in the garden where you can sit down and reflect, or simply watch the many butterflies alight on the many blooms that were planted there just for them.

 

cunningham waterwall

There’s a cozy spot under a pavilion that faces the water wall, a 38-segment water feature which represents the number of minutes that the tornado was on the ground. There’s a void in the water wall at the seventh minute, which is when Cunningham Park was struck.

 

While I miss those times when my girls were little and I’d take them to Helicopter Park, I embrace the new features of this transformed park and appreciate the symbolism of every one of them.

 

Now, instead of a helicopter rising above the treeline, I envision a phoenix rising from the rubble.

 

cunningham rosesCunningham Park is located at 26th Street and Maiden Lane.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.